Community Roundup: Keeping Up With the Obamas

Should getting healthy involve comparing ourselves to others?

It seems you can’t go a day without reading about Michelle Obama’s workout regimen, favorite snacks or perfectly sculpted biceps. Since the First Lady and President Obama are dedicated to reducing obesity rates in America and improving the school lunches of children around the U.S., the media’s singular focus is not misguided. But how much of an impact does the First Family’s healthy lifestyle have on the majority of Americans? Do you really care if the Obamas are fit? That’s the question people are asking on the iVillage health and fitness message boards this week.

According to the iVillagers who responded, not so much. On the one hand, President Obama and the First Lady probably couldn’t advocate a healthier America if they didn’t practice what they preach. On the other, the nation is still in economic turmoil, and many Americans care less about what the First Family is eating than how they’re going to revive the economy.

As md_twin_mommy put it, “I would rather have a fit economy.”

“I would have to be honest and say that the first family's fitness is the last thing on my mind right now. I think had times been different it would be a big influence on others but right now, I'm not sure anyone is really paying attention,” says karla1842.

Still, even if it’s not the most pressing thing on our agenda, some iVillage members do believe the Obama’s efforts to eat well and get active are important. 

“I think that if a leader is going to promote healthy living as a way to keep society healthy, and eventually reduce health care and long-term care costs, then they have to walk the talk,” says iv_miranda_d.

How do you feel about the Obama’s much-publicized health efforts? Is it important for them to be role models -- and do you think they can make a difference? 

Even if we don’t compare ourselves to the First Lady and President Obama, many of us are guilty of measuring ourselves against others. On the Weight Loss boards this week, women talked about the habit of sizing up strangers who are heavier or slimmer than us -- in an effort to make ourselves feel better (or sometimes worse) about where we’re at.

“I compare myself to all sorts of other women. I think it's what we do. ‘Am I as fit as her? Do my shoulders look like that? Does my a** look that huge?’” says iv_miranda_d. “There isn't anything wrong with comparing ourselves to others as long as we continue down the path that is healthy and right for us!”

While iv_miranda_d uses these comparisons as a way to motivate herself, for others, the habit is a way to feel better about themselves. “I've said to myself on several occasions that I'm glad I'm not that large,” says champagneonice.

CS_carolsue also rates herself against others with a tough-love approach. “I always think other people look better than I do, and I look at them and think to myself, I wish I could be built like her. And I can be. I just have to set my mind to it and be diligent in my exercise and diet,” she says.

Recently there was an article in The New York Times about treating oneself compassionately. The story suggests that being kind to yourself instead of critical might be more effective at helping people lose weight. We think we have to be tough on ourselves to motivate change, but such drill sergeant techniques may backfire by making us feel worthless and hopeless. While I think it is natural to compare ourselves to others, I don’t think it’s particularly helpful. There will always be someone who is smarter, richer, thinner and better dressed than we are. For that reason, it’s so much more fulfilling to look inside ourselves to decide what we need to be happy. Course, if anyone figures out how to actually do that without donning blinders or a Burqa, I’d love if you could let me in on the secret. I’ll try not to be jealous if you succeed where I can’t.

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